Top Engineers – Chris Kimsey

Peter Frampton – Wind of Change – Glorious Big Speaker Sound

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A while back we discussed the kind of sound that Glyn Johns managed to get for the likes of Humble Pie and The Who: “But oh what a glorious sound it is when it’s working. There’s not a trace of anything phony up top, down low or anywhere in-between. This means it has a quality sorely at odds with the vast majority of audiophile pressings, new and old, as well as practically anything recorded in the last twenty years, and it is simply this: The louder you play it the better it gets.

This is without a doubt a big speaker record, one that requires the highest-resolution, lowest-distortion components to bring out its best qualities. If you have a system like that you should find much to like here.

I bought my first copy in 1972 when I was still in high school and it quickly became one of my favorite records. All these years later it still is. It’s records like this that shaped my audio purchases and pursuits. It takes a monster system to even begin to play this record right and that’s the kind of stereo I’ve always been drawn to. A stereo that can’t play this record, or The Beatles, or Ambrosia, or Yes, or the hundreds of other amazing recordings we put up on the site every year, is not one I would be very likely to own. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.  

This is the Stones’ last truly great album. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers. With hits like Miss You, Shattered, and Beast Of Burden it’s easy to see why. 

Most copies are too thin and too grainy for serious audiophile listening, but this one is a different story. It’s not easy to find great sound for The Stones, so take this one home for a spin if you want to hear this band come to life in your very own listening room.

Not many copies have this kind of clarity and transparency, or this kind of big, well-defined bottom end. The sound of the hi-hat is natural and clear on this pressing, as are the vocals, which means that the tonality in the midrange is correct, and what could be more important than a good midrange? It’s where all the music is! (more…)

Ten Years After – A Space In Time – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

MASTER TAPE SOUND on BOTH sides of this White Hot Stamper copy! Folks, it just does not get any better than this. It’s been more than two years (08/08) since last we embarked on a Hot Stamper shootout for this great album. I always knew it could sound good, but I sure never heard it sound like this! (I said that last time around too you may recall. Two years is a long time in audio. If your stereo and room are undergoing regular improvements, as they can and should be, the sound will be noticeably better every year, dramatically better after two.) 

This is some of the best high-production-value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of these songs is similar to that of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and the like. In other words, no effort was spared to make the home listening experience as compelling as possible. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Undercover

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Engineered by Chris Kimsey, if you know his work from Some Girls, Tattoo You, Frampton Comes Alive and the like, then you should have a good idea of what this album sounds like on the better copies such as this one.   (more…)

Peter Frampton – I’m In You

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This is the album that almost single handedly destroyed Peter Frampton’s career. To capitalize on the success of his amazing live album, this one was rushed into production with a lot of weak material. But there is a good reason to buy it. The song I’m In You has one of those perfect Frampton guitar breaks which is almost worth the price of the album. About half of this record is actually pretty good. This one won’t make you a fan, but if you are a fan you need this title in your collection, and this is about as nice a copy as can be found. 

Two Frampton albums are absolute Must Owns. Wind Of Change is a masterpiece — the greatest rock guitar album in the history of the world. And Where I Should Be is the last record Frampton made that was any good. I’ve listened to it countless times and never tire of it.

The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Tattoo You

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

THE BEST SIDE TWO WE’VE HEARD, which means we’ve never heard Waiting On A Friend sound this good on any other copy! We just finished a huge shootout for this 1981 Stones album, one that the All Music Guide tags as “essential latter-day Stones”. In the tradition of other late ’70s / early ’80s Stones albums (Some Girls, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock And Roll), the sound is a bit raw at times, but a copy like this one gives you enough energy, body and richness to make for some very enjoyable serious listening.

Side one is big and rich, with more “meat on the bones” as we like to say. The guitars are chunky and powerful, which exactly the sound you want for a song like Start Me Up, which leads things off here. This side one had more extension up top than most copies and more size to the soundfield as well. It doesn’t have all of the presence of the very best copies, but it’s certainly a nice step up from most.

Side two is even better, doing everything side one did and then some, impressing us enough to earn our top A+++ grade. The sound is super clean and clear with amazing immediacy, putting Mick Jagger’s vocals right up front where they belong. It’s also very open, spacious and transparent — qualities that we certainly wouldn’t ascribe to most copies we’ve played. The piano has real weight, the guitars sound just right and the overall sound is usually rich and full.

As with any Stones album, don’t expect any sonic miracles. Hot Stampers aren’t going to turn this into Tea For The Tillerman. If you want to hear an amazing sounding Demo Quality record, this ain’t it, but if you love this music and are frustrated with the sound of the typical pressing I bet you’ll enjoy the heck outta this one. (more…)

Peter Frampton – Wind of Change

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  • Incredible Demo Disc sound throughout: Triple Plus (A+++) on side two and close to that (A++ to A+++) on side one 
  • This British original is the very definition of TUBEY MAGIC, with sound so rich and sweet it will make you want to take all your CDs and dump them in the trash (now that record stores don’t even want them anymore)
  • The best copies like this one keep what’s good about the recording while letting us hear into the soundfield with glorious transparency
  • “The sound is crisp, the melodies catchy, and Frampton’s distinctive, elliptical Gibson Les Paul guitar leads soar throughout… “

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd, Elton John and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

The best song Peter Frampton ever wrote (and performed) is on this very record, in White Hot Stamper sound no less: All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side). It has the Tubey Magical sound WE LOVE here at Better Records. (more…)

Ten Years After – A Space In Time – A Thrill on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

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A Space In Time

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A Space in Time is just one of the recordings that made me pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Speakers, right from my earliest days in audio. You need large dynamic drivers with plenty of piston area – the kind that can move a lot of air – in order to bring the power of the music to life.  

If you have big speakers and a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better than A Space in Time. (more…)

Peter Frampton – Frampton – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

This is a shootout we’d been trying to do for years, but the copies we’d been playing off and on hadn’t been especially cooperative, and onto the back burner our plans would go. Maybe next year…

A bit of background: Both his first solo album and this, his fourth, were recorded by the well-known engineer Chris Kimsey, who famously worked with the Stones and others too numerous to mention. To say that the sound of his albums varies considerably would be the understatement of the year. The first album (British only, fyi) is rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical as practically anything you’ve ever heard (as well as overly tube compressed, its biggest fault).

Sonically this album tends to be none of those things. However, if you play enough copies you are sure to run into at least some that sound right.

I unashamedly confess to being a huge Frampton fan to this very day. His first album, Wind of Change, has been a Desert Island Disc for me ever since I picked up my first copy while still in high school in 1972. I’m a Big Production Rock Guy, as you may have guessed from looking at the records we rave about the most, and Frampton’s first album is a classic of Big Production Rock, in the style of Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon, Songs for Beginners and fifty others I could name. Make that a hundred others. Or two hundred. (more…)

Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

What a monster — this White Hot Stamper Frampton Comes Alive boasts KILLER A+++ sound on sides one, two, and four and very strong A++ sound on side three! If you’re looking for a top-shelf pressing of THE iconic Classic Rock Double Live Album, don’t let this one pass you by. If you grew up with this album it’s going to be a thrill to hear this copy rockin’ on a big audiophile system. 

It’s ridiculously hard to find good sound for this record. Most copies are thin, dry and transistory. And it’s time consuming to clean and play as many copies of this double album as it takes to find enough Hot Stampers to make the endeavor worthwhile. When this album doesn’t have the goods it’s just not very fun. A White Hot Stamper copy like this one will remind you why we all went so crazy for this music back in the ’70s. (more…)